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On our third night in Delhi, we got tremendously lost on our way to meet a friend of mine from high school who lives there now for dinner. We got in the Uber at our hotel and began to drive. We’d been in the car about half an hour when the driver pulled off the main road down a dark lane lined with trees.
“The restaurant is over there,” he communicated with a series of gestures in the direction of a wooded thicket. “Ummmm....pretty sure that’s not where the restaurant is,” we said. But he swiped to end the trip and opened up our door.
Perplexed, we got out of the car and began walking to one end of the road, and then the other, and then back again. We had not yet acquired our tourist SIM cards, so we were sans cell service and thus, relying on our intuition and an offline map app. We wandered for nearly an hour, asking any random stranger if they knew where the restaurant was, to no avail.
I grew more and more frustrated. Sensing this and trying to appease me, Johnny, my travelling companion, began loudly and enthusiastically narrating our every move. “At the end of this block, we’ll make a right. And then walk five blocks down, dog leg left then right, and then it *should be* on the left.”
My face burned. His bombastic orienteering was not helping. I wanted to shout at him, would you just shut up already??
But instead I paused.
I walked a little slower, and when I was about ten paces behind him, I had a little convo with myself (in my head).
I asked myself, “Hey, how are you feeling right now?” And when I paused to inquire, I realized that I was feeling shame. “Oh,” I said to myself. “You’re ashamed. Okay. What do you feel ashamed about?” “I feel ashamed that we’re going to be late to meet my friends. I feel ashamed that we have to ask for so much help. I feel ashamed that people in this hip neighborhood might perceive that we are hapless foreign travellers lost on our way to dinner.”
And then I just talked to myself kindly. I said, “Oh honey, it’s okay that you’re running late. It’s okay that you’re lost. It was an honest mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. You are trying your hardest and everyone knows it.”
And then, miraculously, the shame dissolved. I felt the hardness drain from my abdomen, the tension soften from my throat. I laughed at Johnny’s (eventually fruitful) attempts at navigation. We finally found the restaurant and had one of our favorite dinners of the trip. And I carried on.
Travel holds up a mirror.
Like yoga and mindfulness practices, travel shows us all the parts of us. All our habits and tendencies, good and bad. And I got to practice meeting myself in my flaw-ful-ness with love and sweetness. With patience and compassion. With acceptance that I am still growing and changing.
But a past version of me (and, let’s be real, probably some future version of me too) would have flipped out. I would’ve blamed Johnny for the discomfort of my unaccounted for shame. I would’ve raised my voice and picked a fight.
I never would have asked, listened, or soothed. I would’ve picked a fight and felt some release but I wouldn’t have actually resolved the issues.
But I’m learning how to do better. I’m learning how to listen to myself on a deeper level. I’m learning how be present with what’s actually happening. The practices are having an effect on my ability to navigate the world.
I am suffering less. That's the whole point.
And that feels really fucking good.
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